Nicolai the Amur Leopard (2002 – 2021)

Jackson Zoo Keepers and staff are deeply saddened to announce the passing of Nicolai, our Amur leopard. The handsome big cat had just turned 19 on June 30th, which is quite elderly for a species with a normal life span of 15 years. He started to go into noticeable decline, and zoo management made the heartbreaking decision to humanely euthanize him when his behavior indicated he was at his end.

Nic joined the Jackson Zoo as part of the Amur leopard SSP (Species Survival Program) in 2004. Amur leopards are critically endangered in the wild, with only 90 individuals confirmed to exist in small sections along the Russia/China border. Although conservationists are working tirelessly against the illegal wildlife trade, climate change, habitat loss, and deforestation in order to increase the number of these animals, Amurs are still considered one of the world’s rarest big cats. Nicolai sired 2 offspring during his life, one of which still lives today.

Not only was he an exceptionally beautiful cat, he was relatively laid back and easy going in temperament (for a cat, of course!). Every keeper that worked with him loved him, and we feel his loss personally as well as with regard to his species. 

Because animals in zoos usually live longer than in the wild (consistent feeding and vet care adds years to a life span), emotional attachment is unavoidable. Although it is hard to say good bye to these amazing creatures at the end of their lives, we are so proud that we were a part of their story.